Democrats vying for Yoder’s seat in Congress spell out priorities at candidate forum

Forum attendees enduring a lack of air conditioning after a power outage from a storm the morning of the forum.

Six candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the Kansas Third Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives gave their take on the country’s major issues and how to solve them.

Democrats and supporters gathered Saturday afternoon in the auditorium of Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church to hear from each of the candidates at the forum, which was hosted by the group Swing Left. Despite the power loss and lack of air conditioning caused by an early-morning thunderstorm, the room was packed for nearly two hours while supporters greeted the candidates and heard their political stances on topics including climate change, healthcare, social security funding and campaign finance laws.

Here’s a summary of the priorities the candidates discussed.

Sharice Davids

Hoping to bring diversity and a new voice in Congress, Davids spoke of “changing the face of Kansas politics.” Davids said she would sponsor the bill to expand and improve Medicare, but she stressed the need to elect a president who will actually sign it. She supports funding schools in an equitable way and investing in preschool education opportunities.

“As somebody who spent time in transportation, I will fight tooth and nail to get us to invest in our infrastructure so that we can have the pathways to opportunity,” Davids said. “because transportation touches every aspect of our lives.”

Davids recommends protecting Social Security by electing new members of Congress. She added that the phaseout of Social Security is “troubling” because people who make less money end up paying more into their Social Security than others who make six figures. She also spoke against recognizing corporations as people with First Amendment rights and looking into publicly financed elections.

Mike McCamon

With experience in the tech and nonprofit sectors, McCamon stressed the need for all elected officials to know when to stand their ground and when to compromise in order to accomplish things. McCamon said he would advocate for the U.S. to have half of all of its energy by renewable resources by 2030 and to outlaw gasoline- and diesel-powered automobiles “entirely.”

Citing the complex issue of healthcare, McCamon said he would seek realistic options by first advocating to negotiate better prices with Medicare and also provide freedom of choice in healthcare options. Funding Social Security and Medicare are important, but constituents in the 3rd District are concerned about accountability and transparency issues around the budgeting, McCamon said.

“I think the thing we’re all sick and tired of is the gridlock in Washington,” McCamon said, adding that he would work with other members of Congress to resolve the issue and fund Social Security.

“It’s very simple to see that Social Security should be well funded; it’s your money. It’s not an entitlement,” he said.

McCamon would also like to see candidates “go on a diet” by limiting their campaign spending, especially in the primary election.

Tom Niermann

As an educator with concerns about gun violence and healthcare, Niermann emphasized the importance of electing a middle-class officer to represent the middle and working classes. Niermann recommended taking the lead on climate change as a global issue by ending subsidies and tax incentives for the fossil fuel industry — and use that money to encourage renewable energy sources such as wind power.

He also supports universal healthcare, citing massive debts by Americans who are still paying for healthcare. He recommended equity in public education “because that is the basis for opportunity;” and he said he would advocate for federal funding for infrastructure projects.

The first step in addressing campaign finance law issues is to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, which allows corporations to have unlimited political spending.

“That court case allows billionaires and corporations to purchase legislators, and I think our current representative is a classic example of a legislator who has been purchased by billionaires,” Niermann said, adding that he hopes to take the money out of politics.

Jay Sidie

Based on his previous experience running for the Third Congressional District seat in 2016, Sidie recommended seeking votes from unaffiliated voters who are less engaged with politics than Democrats or Republicans. Sidie wants to push economic efforts for green energy and remove subsidies tax breaks for the nonrenewable energy industry. He said he thinks fixing America’s healthcare problem is not that complicated because “other countries are doing it very successfully.” The key is driving costs down without upheaving the whole system.

Sidie said he believes income and equality are major factors that touch every facet of American opportunity, such as education and healthcare. He supports Social Security, and “to pull the rug out at this stage of their lives is deplorable.”

“If I’m elected to Congress, I’ll make sure I fight for the people that deserve their Social Security — because it’s just horrible that we’re even talking about it,” Sidie said. “There’s ways to fix it. It wasn’t that Social Security was a problem; they just spent your money. They’ve spent the money on unfunded wars and given tax breaks to rich people. Why should the people that put all that money in pay for those mistakes? It can’t happen, not on my watch.”
Sidie also suggested designing publicly funded elections.

Brent Welder

An advocate for workers’ rights and the underserved, Welder spoke of his experience working with President Barack Obama and former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Stressing that “science is real,” Welder believes “unfettered corporate greed” causes climate change.

“The giant corporations, the billionaires, that do not care about you, that do not care about your children, would rather poison our drinking water, would rather poison the air that we breathe, than to spend a little bit of money to be able to dispose of their waste in an environmentally conscious way,” Welder said.

He also said he would support universal healthcare, a $15 minimum wage, debt-free college and early childhood education opportunities. Reforming campaign finance laws is Welder’s top priority, he said, citing Bernie Sanders’s campaign and advocating to “ban big corporate money altogether from politics.”

Sylvia Williams

After learning that she earned only half of what her male counterparts made in corporate America, Williams came out strongly in favor of equal pay and paid family leave. She said she would like to reinstate the Paris Climate Agreement, make changes to Environmental Protection Agency operations (such as hiring a new director) and investing in clean resources in Kansas, such as wind energy. Williams said she would support expanding healthcare, but also recommended government oversight of the pharmaceutical drug industry.

Williams supports modernizing the Community Reinvestment Act and finding ways to fix Social Security funding now.

“It is the perfect time to do it,” Williams said. “Large corporations just got the biggest tax cut — more than they ever dreamed of getting — so we actually have an opportunity here. Now is the time to say we’re lifting the cap on the employer side of FICA. That is how you save Social Security and Medicare.”

Williams suggested reforming campaign finance laws by removing tax-exempt status for 501(c)4 organizations. By doing so, the Internal Revenue Service would have audit oversight, and donors would “be a lot more nervous” about donating to these corporations.

Primary is August 7

First time voters can still register to vote in the in the August 7 primary through July 17.

You can find information about how to register to vote in the primary elections via the Johnson County Election Office website here.